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iTunes

Is Apple Considering iTunes Subscriptions?

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Apparently, Apple may be considering a service that allows unlimited iTunes Store downloads for a year in exchange for a higher initial purchase price on future iPods and iPhones. It has been dubbed “Comes With Music.” However, this means that Apple would go against its long-standing view that music should not be purchased permanently and not merely rented as many other music services do. I don’t know quite where I stand with this yet. It’s an interesting concept. Here’s the article, via AppleInsider.

A longtime opponent of subscription music services, Apple is reportedly exploring the possibility of charging extra for iPhones and iPods in exchange for unlimited iTunes Store access. Allegedly tipped off by senior officials close to the matter, the Financial Times suggests that Apple is in talks with music labels to follow an approach first pioneered by Nokia and Universal Music Group.

Dubbed Comes With Music, the upcoming service has customers pay more for a cellphone in return for as many a la carte music downloads as the customer likes over the course of a year. In this implementation, customers can either renew a subscription once it expires or else keep the tracks they’ve downloaded, even if they switch to competing phones or music services. This would eliminate common reservations about subscription services whose copy protection automatically invalidates downloaded tracks as soon as the subscription ends. Apple chief Steve Jobs famously attacked this latter concept as “renting music” upon introducing the iTunes Music Store in 2003.

Apple is said to be entertaining the notion of a similar plan to spur sales for iPhones and iPods. However, the electronics giant is claimed by a pair of executives to have hit a roadblock through its early insistence on low prices. While Nokia already plans to charge $80 for its year-long music giveaway, its newest opponent in the cellphone market is only willing to offer $20 at present — a gap that may result in no deal at all if no labels agree to the strategy. “It’s who blinks first,” says one of the claimed sources, “and whether or not anyone does blink.”

Apple may nonetheless be willing to budge. Studies purportedly conducted about the subject have shown that many would be willing to spend $100 for unlimited access throughout the device’s entire useful lifespan. Whether these studies were conducted by Apple or music industry analysts is unknown. More surprising still are assertions that Apple is willing to consider a conventional subscription model with a monthly fee, though the details of any proposals are unclear. The Times claims that such a service would require an iPhone due to the monthly billing structure and that most industry discussions revolve around unlimited access to songs with permanent downloads for 40-50 of those songs. The same research conducted for a Comes With Music-style premium also suggests that customers would be willing to pay between $7 and $8 per month for a subscription. Apple has declined comment on the report.

Macworld 2008 Keynote – New Hardware/Software: My Review

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs just finished his keynote at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco. Apple released all sorts of exciting new things. I watched a video stream of it online. Here are my takes on what was released:

First up was Time Capsule. It’s an AirPort Extreme base station (wireless N router) that also backs up your computer’s contents wirelessly. It comes in 500 GB and 1 TB versions.

Next up was iTunes Movie Rentals. This was expected. All major movie studios are on board to offer newly released movies for $3.99 and older movies for only $2.99. The movie is yours for 30 days, but once you start watching it you have 24 hours to finish. Downloads take only about 30 seconds over broadband and are available in DVD quality or HD for $1 more.

iPhone and iPod Touch software updates were next. The Google Maps feature on the iPhone finally has real-time GPS using cellular triangulation (finds the three closest cell towers to you and determines your position pretty accurately). You can now send text messages to multiple people at the same time, too. It’s about time. Web clips now let you make applications out of websites you visit that are already optimized for iPhone (for example, I use the iPhone versions of Facebook and Fandango). You can now put these and any number of other websites on the home screen. You can also now have multiple home screens and reorder your icons in any way you desire. Nice move, Apple. The only thing missing? With all these cool features, I still cant send or receive multimedia (picture/video) messages? Strange, no? The iPod Touch is finally receiving what iPhones already have: Mail, Stocks, Notes, and Weather applications. It should have had these in the first place, but Apple is charging $20 for them. Why?

Apple TV saw a major upgrade. Not the hardware itself, but a huge software update. You can now buy music, watch YouTube videos, rent iTunes movies in full HD, etc. all without a computer. Finally, this once dud of a product in Apple’s otherwise excellent product lineup should see a much more positive consumer response.

Finally, the much rumored MacBook Air was introduced. It’s being dubbed the world’s thinnest notebook, measuring only 0.76 inches thin. Incredible. It comes in an 80 GB 1.8 inch hard drive version (same size drive used in current iPods) or a much faster 64 GB SSD (solid state (flash memory) drive). There’s no optical disk drive, but you can wirelessly install software from other computers on your network. The track pad even has multi-touch just like the iPhone! Very cool. I’m in awe at just how thin, sleek, and beautiful this thing is. I know, I’m a full-fledged Apple geek.

A few things that many people were expected but weren’t announced were a new iPhone model and a Mac notebook docking station similar to the look of the current iMac model.

One thing I don’t understand is Apple’s logic on giving away a big update for the iPhone (as they should) as well as a huge overhaul software-wise for Apple TV, but yet they’re charging $20 for applications that should have originally shipped with the iPod Touch? That makes no sense at all, and I bet the update will become free when people realize how little logic there is in their strategy.

I didn’t think Apple could top last year’s Macworld Expo Keynote (where the iPhone was announced), but I was wrong. Great job, Apple.